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Fears mount of Lebanon crisis spilling onto streets

ICC Note

“We’ve managed to prevent things from getting out of hand but if riots erupt all over the country and in the event of sectarian clashes, I am not sure our troops will be able to contain the situation,”

January 24, 2008 Lebanon (AFP) — Fears are mounting that Lebanon ‘s prolonged political crisis could spill out on to the streets after a spate of demonstrations over government paralysis and the escalating cost of living.

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Imad Salamey, a political science professor at Lebanese American University , told AFP he believed the increasing protests were a ploy by the Hezbollah-led opposition to force the Western-backed government to buckle to its demands over the presidency.

“I think the tactic here is to build up a manageable escalation,” Salamey said. “And whenever it looks like it’s going to get out of hand, they will cool it down and wait for a new round of negotiations.”

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But a spokesman for opposition leader and parliament speaker Nabih Berri rejected accusations that their camp was behind the growing unrest.

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Although all parties agree on the candidacy of army chief General Michel Sleiman to fill the post, they are at loggerheads over the make-up of the future government.

The ruling coalition is mainly backed by members of the Sunni and Druze communities, as well as some Christians, while the opposition is mainly backed by the Shiites and by other Christians.

A senior security official warned that while police so far have managed to control the violence, that would not be the case if the situation escalated.

“We’ve managed to prevent things from getting out of hand but if riots erupt all over the country and in the event of sectarian clashes, I am not sure our troops will be able to contain the situation,” he said.

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